Fire safety in a HMO

There is a significant risk of fire in houses in multiple occupation (HMOs). We therefore require owners to provide adequate means of escape from fire and adequate fire precautions and we have the power to enforce this.

All occupants of an HMO should be able to leave the premises safely in the event of a fire.  Measures must be put in place to prevent the spread of fire and smoke to living areas or escape routes before the occupants have been able to exit the building.  There must also be adequate warning systems in which help to ensure occupants receive sufficient warning of a fire to make their escape before escape routes become impassable.

Risk assessments

All landlords are required to carry out a fire risk assessment of their properties under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 in order to identify, manage and reduce the risks from fire.  The extent of fire safety measures required will depend on the design, layout and use of each individual property.

Fire safety provisions

The LACORS ‘Housing – Fire Safety’ guide provides guidance on fire safety provisions for certain types of existing housing and can be used to assess what is reasonably required in each property.  Relatively simple systems will be satisfactory for smaller low risk premises but larger houses and HMOs will require a more sophisticated system. All systems are to comply with BS 5839: Parts 1 & 6.

In very general terms, we would typically expect to find the following precautions:

  • heat detectors and fire blankets in the kitchen
  • interlinked smoke detectors within the hallway, stairs and landing
  • interlinked smoke detector in the living room
  • direct access from the bedrooms on to the hallway/landing (means of escape) or suitable secondary means of escape
  • thumb turn lock on main exit door to allow exit at all times
  • fire doors are recommended for kitchen doors and may be required to all doors in larger 3+ storey HMOs.  Well fitted and constructed solid doors may be acceptable in smaller 2 storey HMOs.

‘Inner’ rooms

Bedrooms and living rooms should ideally exit directly onto a hallway which leads directly out of a property. However any bedrooms accessed via living rooms and/or kitchens are known as ‘inner rooms’ and in these cases there must be a satisfactory alternative means of escape from these rooms.

Smoke detection

Smoke/heat detectors must be interlinked (radio linked is acceptable) and should be hard wired into the property.  For smaller low risk HMOs it may be acceptable to use 10 year battery-sealed smoke detectors as long as they are interlinked.

Fire fighting equipment

There are no longer requirements to have fire-fighting equipment in HMOs. The advice is to evacuate the building to a place of safety and call the fire and rescue service.

If you have any queries relating to fire safety in your rented property, please contact us.